Northern Birding Trip

Today, we got a small taste of the fun that participants will have at the Sax Zim Bog Bird Festival in the coming weeks! Stan Tekiela and I took a group up for a day birding around the bog and had a great time.

We started at a resident named Derek Morse, who has a feeding station set up one mile north of Co Rd 133 on the Blue Spruce Rd. If you go here on your own, everyone is warning peopl to park in the parking lot and not in the driveway! Above are some common redpolls draining a feeder filled with Nyjer thistle and sunflower chips.

Our group even had a chance to glimpse a hoary redpoll in the above blurry photo. That was the first time I had seen one and there was no question whatsoever to its id. Because this resident is so generous to allow birders from all over to come and watch and photograph birds, a donation box has been set up for donations to contribute to the seed supply. We were happy to contribute to the cause. I remember from when I worked at the bird store--we loved it when redpolls showed up, they can go through see like there's no tomorrow.

Our groups also got to see loads of pine grosbeaks like this female and male above. Depending on the time of day, people are also seeing boreal chickadees and gray jays at this feeding station. We saw those birds at the bog, but did not see them at this particular feeding station--oh, and early in the morning, you can also have a chance to see evening grosbeaks too. I love how just three hours where I live, you can see just completely different birds at feeding stations--all part of the magic of living in this area of the country.

Our group really enjoyed all the birds and had a great time, but hands down the highlight for me was getting a lifer mammal--a wolf! I have never seen one in the wild, and one loped across the road in front of our van. Above is a very blurry photo that I sadly attempted well after the wolf crossed the road--it's that blur behind the shrubbery. So, so cool.

We continued our adventure down the bog's remote roads. We passed many ruffed grouse and white-tailed deer. I watched a grouse take a total nose dive (or would that be a beak dive?). The bird was scooting near the road, when our van came to stop, it froze among the trees, trying to hide, then it tried to do that slow stealthy walk, before finally breaking into an all out run. The ruffed grouse took three strides, then one foot got caught in the snow and it fell face forward--you just don't see wildlife take a spill like Charlie Chaplin and I felt amused and sorry for the bird all at once.

We continued to Admiral Rd where Mike Hendrickson has been gracious enough to hang some deer rib cages on trees as a sort of industrial sized suet feeder. There was quite a bit of activity near this cage, and someone had also scattered some bird seed near the road to the delight of the area chickadees.

Gray jays also called Whiskey Jacks (and look kind of like a chickadee on steroids) love the the hunk a deer fat on the trees.

This bird almost looked like it was smiling like it was king of the fat as it perched on the deer ribs.

There were also just some deer carcasses on the side of the road. Chickadees were flitting over it, as was this red squirrel who came over for a nibble on the meat. This spot was also full of signs of woodpecker activity. A black-backed woodpecker showed up near the deer rib cage and then flew away.

There was still quite a bit of quiet tapping and very low on the trunks we found a male three-toed woodpecker--who had n incredible knack of positioning itself around a trunk or tucked behind branches.

For a mere few seconds it appeared unobstructed and I did manage on photo of this very cool woodpecker. Incidentally, the weather was perfect--in the twenties and I found myself quite comfortable without gloves and ear muffs--the one advantage of sub zero temperatures, it fools you into thinking that twenty degrees is a reasonable temperature.

We watched the cooperative gray jays for a few more minutes and then pressed on to look for a few more species including northern hawk owl and boreal chickadee.

We headed out to look for the hawk owl and found it, thanks to some birder's pulled over. Here it is in the distance being mobbed by a couple of gray jays.

It flew in a little closer, but it was getting dark and it's not the best photo. When we found this bird, it was time for us to head back in order for us to be home by the time scheduled on my itinerary. We still had not seen the boreal chickadee and Stan said he knew of a friend's house and we could get one but we would be returning late. I had plans for the evening, but we asked the group and no one apart from Stan and myself had ever seen one before and were happy to return late to get one. Well, how could I be the spoil sport, so we went for the boreal chickadee and saw it right away and I'm glad I delayed my evening plans.